French Baguettes: Homemade

The problem with bread baking at home is the lack of steam or moisture in the home oven. The crust is just not right.  The lack of moisture makes the crust form too soon, which hinders the inside from becoming light, chewy and tender.   So, the question is, how do we create steam in an oven in exactly the amount we need without opening and closing the oven door so much that the temperature drops and ruins everything?  I had tried just about everything over the last couple of years and ultimately I had very few successful results with only some exceptions.  I had yet to find a really successful baguette recipe.  There were some good recipes and some good breads, but it just wasn’t the same as when you get it from a bakery.  I had pretty much succumbed to having to pay four dollars if I wanted a decent loaf of French bread, honestly, until yesterday.

I was halfway through my workout when I turned on the cooking channel and this lovely young woman appeared to be baking baguettes.  She threw some ice cubes onto a pre-heated sided sheet tray and put the bread that she folded like an envelope into the oven with the ice cubes.  As the cubes melted and evaporated, they added the necessary steam to create that light crackle on the crust.  This was the one issue that I could not overcome!   The light crackle!

That’s genius!  Would that work?   I think so.

Why didn’t I think of that sooner?    Didn’t I try that already?

Maybe I didn’t…I thought I did…

Anyway…

Much to my delight, it is true!   The crackle on the crust is exquisite.  The rich and hearty interior is chewy yet tender.  It was not only AS good as a bakery baguette, but I’d say it was better, just because of how uniquely fresh and simple it was.

Immediately, I grabbed my camera and took a picture quickly.   Baguette success.  Finally, one to cross off the list.  I will always use this ice-cube method from now on.

French Baguettes

By: Kelsey Nixon    Show: Kelsey’s Essentials     Original recipe found here

  • 2 envelopes dry active yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Canola oil, for greasing bowl
  • Cornmeal, for dusting pan
  • 3 to 4 ice cubes
  • Serving suggestions: ricotta cheese and acacia honey

  

Combine the honey, yeast and 1/2 cup warm water. Whisk to combine and let the mixture sit until the yeast begins to foam, 5 minutes.

Mix the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl with a dough hook and slowly add in the frothy yeast mixture. Gradually add 1 cup warm water and mix until the dough comes together into a ball that is not too sticky (you may not need all of the water). If the dough is too wet, add a little bit more flour. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic and springs back to gently applied pressure, 2 to 6 minutes

Form the dough into a ball, place it in a lightly-oiled bowl and cover, so it doesn’t dry out. Let rest in a warm environment until doubled in size, 25 to 30 minutes.

Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Shape into 2 baguettes by making a flat rectangle out of your dough, then folding the longer sides (top and bottom) towards the middle, like an envelope, and sealing the seam with your fingers.   Repeat the folding and sealing on these sides, stretching the rectangle lengthwise as you go, until it’s about 12 to 14 inches long and 2 inches wide. Fold the ends in once  and crimp into an oval to seal off into the traditional baguette shape. Flip the dough seam-side down and place on a sheet pan or baguette pan that has been dusted with cornmeal. Score the tops of the loaves, making deep diagonal slits 1/2-inch deep ( or 3/4 of the way through the height of the dough, not all the way through), cover with a dishcloth and let rise in a warm environment until they have doubled in size, 25 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and position your oven racks with one on the bottom and the other in the middle. Place an oven-safe (non-glass) bowl or pan on the bottom rack.

When your bread has doubled for the second time, remove the towel and quickly and simultaneously, slide the sheet tray with the baguettes onto the middle rack while carefully throwing the ice cubes into the bowl on the bottom rack. The ice will create a burst of steam that will give you a nice crispy crust. Quickly shut the oven door so no steam escapes. Bake the baguettes until golden brown, 15 minutes.

Cook’s Note: If you have a glass window on your oven, place a towel over it when throwing the ice in, hot glass can shatter if ice touches it.

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22 thoughts on “French Baguettes: Homemade

  1. Absolutely genius! I tried this and they turned out fabulous. I’ve nevermqde baguettes but I
    will never try anything else! Thank you!

  2. I am notoriously terrible at baking bread, and this recipe works GREAT! The crust got a bit too dark, but my oven runs hot, so I blame it. Absolutely delicious! Thank you!!

  3. Genius idea!!! Totally trying that. I LOVE baking bread, especially a good sourdough. Have had my starter for at least a couple years now…

  4. Looks delicious, I definitely want to try to make my own baguettes, I love making my own bread in general. I have also heard of people putting a cast iron pan in the bottom of their oven and tossing the ice cubes in that to create the necessary steam. Great job!

  5. I have been trying many ideas to get the crust right but never thought of ice cubes. One more try I must make! Thanks for the tip!

  6. Wow, these baguettes turned out beautifully! I’m so impressed you made these from scratch – all I want to do is tear off a chunk and start chewing… I am featuring this post in today’s Friday Food Fetish roundup (with a link-back and attribution), but please let me know if you have any objections. It’s a pleasure to be following your creations…

  7. With ice cubes…!!! I don’t know how many times times I tried to make a baguette with the crust it should be, of course with no sucess, the flavor was there, but that crunchy wasn’t perfect, even trying with different quantities of water inside my oven. Neves imagine that I should use ice cubes.

  8. I will totally have to try that! I was going to make soft pretzels with the kids later this week, so I wonder if this would work well for them too….

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